Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Southern Flavor of an Iron Skillet

"Can't no Teflon fry no fried chicken." -Vertamae Grosvenor

Revered as heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, cast iron pans are the essential kitchen tool for true Southern Cooking. There isn't much a southern girl can't cook in her Mama's well seasoned skillet, from fried chicken to cornbread, it is a tangible piece of a family's history.

Seasoning your iron skillet takes time - years, in fact - that's why it is such a valued possession. Building up layers of natural oils over time creates a non-stick surface, while enriching the food with a uniquely "southern" flavor. The more you use, or season, your skillet the darker the color of the skillet will become over time. There are a few rules of care that must be following to hold up the integrity of a well-seasoned skillet. If these techniques are followed there is no reason why your cast iron skillets won't last through your lifetime, and many generations beyond.

Never, ever, ever clean your iron skillet with soap or a scouring pad, or worse, put it in the dishwasher. This breaks down all the seasoning you've worked so hard to build up. All you need to do is rinse the pan out with hot water, gently brushing out any food, then dry it thoroughly with paper towels.

Store you iron skillet in a cool, dry place to prevent rust. If your skillet has a lid store it seperately, or place a paper towel between the pan and the lid to absorb any moisture.

If you are lucky enough to have inherited an iron skillet, preserve it and care for it well. If you are learning to cook like a southerner, go get yourself a medium iron skillet tomorrow!

Don't be discouraged by a new, unseasoned pan. You can easily be on your way to having a well-seasoned skillet in no time. The best seasoning food you can cook in your new pan is bacon. After cooking the bacon drain the grease into a container and keep it in the refrigerator until it solidifies.

Seasoning an Iron Skillet
Heat your oven to 250 degrees
Coat the inside of your skillet with a layer of the bacon grease (lard can also be used)
Place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Pour any excess grease out of the pan, and put it back in the oven for another 2 hours.

This process can be repeated several times to enhance seasoning.

Another important advantage of cooking in cast iron is that it is one of the top sources for achieving your daily iron intake. Getting proper amounts of iron are essential for preventing anemia and fatigue.

Happy cooking and healthy eating.

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